Before you start inviting Subject Matter Experts (SME) to help you document existing processes, take the time to meet with them to understand what motivates them as individuals.

You will likely find that many SMEs thrive on the ego of being the ‘go-to person’ when someone in the organisation needs help solving a problem or needs an answer.

They will feel threatened by your Knowledge Management proposals, especially if they are not included in the transition.

Try engaging the SME to volunteer their knowledge, to document and own procedures themselves and also to contribute as an author if you’re planning to implement an online Knowledge Portal or Intranet.

What problem does it solve?

The one thing you’ll find most challenging when documenting processes is that Subject Matter Experts (SME) will be unlikely to volunteer their knowledge.

SMEs will be hesitant because they fear their jobs will be at risk if their knowledge is readily available online via an Intranet or Knowledge portal.

What is the benefit?

SMEs within an organisation feel like they are the all-mighty powerful ‘gurus’ and without their help, the organisation would simply ‘fall apart’. We know this is not true, but for SMEs being the custodian of corporate knowledge means they are valuable and feel valued. 

When you meet with SMEs, don’t scare them away with your flashy proposal to store everything they know on a portal.

You need to acknowledge the SME’s ability and contributions to your organisation. Getting SMEs onboard to volunteer their knowledge, rather than demanding they surrender it, will save you hours or negotiation and convincing them to contribute.

What is the effort?

Spend at least one hour per week with SMEs. All this requires is your genuine time and respect (if this fails, try bribery with a coffee or doughnut).

Is it right for you?

  • Medium Businesses: 50 – 500 employees
  • Large Corporations: 500+ employees


Tina has been a SME for your call centre in a specialist help-desk team. Every time a call centre agent has a question about a process, they call Tina. Last week you approached Tina to ask her to document all the answers to the questions that she gets from the call centre, so you can upload those Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to the Intranet. Tina is concerned that if you upload all of the FAQs to the Intranet that none of the staff will call her anymore for assistance and she’ll be less productive, less valued – or worse, concerned she’ll be without a job.

Rather, you could spend time with Tina showing that by taking the time to document the FAQs, she can instead become the ongoing custodian for managing the content. Furthermore, show her that rather than wasting her time repeating the same answers for menial questions, demonstrate that she can be involved in solving more complex problems with the time she has saved as well as delivering greater overall value to the organisation.

Hey, smarty!

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